Arts and culture

Masterpiece Online: In conversation with Corrie Jackson on the RBC Art Collection


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corrie jackson of RBC alongside artist vanessa maltese preparing installation

Photo credit www.stephanienoritz.com

In support of Masterpiece Online, Corrie Jackson, RBC's senior curator, provides a historical look at the RBC Corporate Art Collection, contextualizing the critical role art plays in our communities and why Royal Bank of Canada continues it's support as Principal Partner of Masterpiece for the seventh year. This year, Masterpiece Online will encourage viewers not just to view and buy works of art, but to join the conversation by engaging with 138 multi-disciplinary exhibitors.

Jackson has been working with the RBC Art Collection for over five years, and is actively focused on ensuring the collection be a space that furthers inclusive dialogues and supports the work of new and innovative voices.

What does a partnership with Masterpiece mean to RBC?

The arts are in many ways often the heart of our communities – they help us process, express, and articulate shared experiences, and keep us connected. Partnering with Masterpiece is a wonderful opportunity to share RBC's deep commitment to the arts with our clients – while including them in the innovative, reflective, and impactful conversations that the arts inherently spark. The team at Masterpiece also create a truly exceptional atmosphere that brings together so many leading galleries. Their commitment to research, presentation, and excellence is industry-leading. We're extremely proud to be a longstanding partner of the fair.

In addition to sponsorship, RBC also supports the arts as a direct patron. When did RBC start to develop its corporate collection?

The RBC Corporate Art Collection was sparked with a commitment to Canadian artists in 1929, and has always focused on showcasing the best of Canadian art. The first curator was brought on in the early 80's to bring a new focus, energy and oversight to the collection. Ever since, the collection has been a key element of how spaces at RBC are experienced. The launch of RBC Emerging Artists Project in 2007, was the beginning of RBC's efforts to doubled down on its commitment to supporting the work of living artists (many being in the early stages of their careers), and now, more than half of our acquisitions every year focus on these artists. We know the impact these acquisitions have on the artists themselves, and they bring new, innovative energy to the collection.

corrie-jackson senior curator RBC

What type of works make up the collection?

The collection is comprised of more than 5,000 artworks that reside in our RBC offices internationally. There's a significant breadth and depth in the collection – from video works and site-specific installations, to photography and paintings. Our goal is to ensure the artworks complement and support the work of RBC's employees – and the experience of clients when they visit our offices. Visit a small selection of the RBC Art Collection here.

What are RBC's main criteria to add artworks to its collection?

In general, we look at artists with ties to Canada. As a global collection, seeing Canada's presence in the international art community is quite impressive. There's a vast network of exceptional artists around the world who we've been fortunate to work with. We aim to have the collection facilitate conversation while reflecting RBC's values by supporting innovative and diverse perspectives. The artwork we acquire are assets we track and care for, but also investments in the intrinsic importance of artists, their productions, and the impact of the arts on our communities. It's important to mention that we also look to support the works of artists whose work has been championed by their peers and exhibited in public intuitions, embedding the artists and their work as part of a larger cultural dialogue and reflecting the social value of these works.

Why is this collection important to RBC ?

Through our art collection, we demonstrate our understanding of the role artists play in our communities and society at large. They're catalysts for dialogue and discourse – reflecting on where we've been and where we're going. Supporting artists means supporting vibrant communities. Bringing their works into the RBC collection supports their livelihood – but also brings these conversations into the spaces where we live and work.

Artwork is acquired and installed with a focus on creating and inspiring cross-generational conversations. Why is this important, and what do you want people to learn from cross-generational conversations?

Given the deep history of the RBC Art Collection, cross-generational dialogues have become an important part of how we navigate the collection. We look to focus deeply on the acquisition and support of emerging artists, but always look to contextualize their works alongside the artists who've been their mentors and teachers. These threads of thought and influence are so important to understanding how perspectives evolve. Thinking about how ways of looking and making develop and change over time is so valuable to understanding our own biases and assumptions. When we look at work from different moments in time, we can think to the context of their making, and how the content might have been read at the moment the work was made versus now. Great art seems to have a way of always feeling relevant throughout time, and brings us back to ourselves.

At Masterpiece, artworks of different eras and categories are presented together. How do you find the "cross-generational" spirit is reflected through the fair?

Masterpiece truly looks to navigate the role of art and artifacts across time. Many contemporary artists draw from art history in their reference points and source material. Cross-collecting lets us bring together reference points, and create a deeper narrative between objects. Seeing an historical object alongside something from the contemporary allows us to think about the many ways our relationship to objects and art has changed, and at times stayed the same. It can also help us see the arts relationship to the political, the cultural, the religious … as well as shifting approaches to patronage. Through these objects, we can understand the influences that have been developed across generations. This brings perspective to contemporary art which helps us be more aware of the many threads that lead us into our current moment.

RBC's workshop with the Prince's Trust at Masterpiece is designed to empower the next generation of artists. Why are young people a focus for RBC?

It was such a pleasure to present to The Prince's Trust on the ways the arts industry continues to innovate and bring new ideas and voices forward. The world of work is changing – and young people are largely unprepared. Our mission is to help give them a chance through an initiative called RBC Future Launch. It's a 10-year, C$500-million commitment to help young people gain work experience, grow their networks, learn new skills and enhance their mental well being. Working together with young people, RBC Future Launch is bringing community leaders, industry experts and educators together to help design solutions and harness resources for young people to have a more prosperous and inclusive future. Our partnership with The Prince's Trust in the UK – and its chapters around the world – is a good example of that as we help young entrepreneurs turn their ideas into a reality.

Read more about Masterpiece here.